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The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 makes employers responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees.

OSHA Cites Nemak for Employees’ Chemical Exposure

April 2, 2019
Three cases of occupational hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a lung disease, related to finishing aluminum parts

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in March cited Nemak USA Inc. in Sheboygan, WI, for exposing workers to metalworking fluids used in the process of finishing cast aluminum parts. The citation states that three employees were diagnosed with occupational hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a debilitating lung disease, as a result of the exposure.

“Employers using these materials in their production must ensure that good hygiene practices are followed, and fluids are properly managed to protect employees from potential lung damage,” said Appleton (WI) Area Office Director Robert Bonack. 

Nemak USA has about 1,200 employees at two plants in Sheboygan, where it produces aluminum high-pressure diecastings for automotive applications. It is the group’s largest operation in North America.

According to OSHA, an August 2018 inspection at the plant was initiated after the agency received a medical referral. OSHA cited Nemak USA for failing to protect the employees from exposure to airborne metalworking fluids during machining operations, and failing to evaluate respiratory hazards.

Nemak faces penalties of $26,520 for two "serious" health violations, the maximum penalty allowed by law, OSHA noted. In the agency’s classification system, a “serious violation” is indicated when OSHA finds there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm may result from a hazard about which the employer knew, or should have known.

The company was allowed 15 business days from its receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.